Various Artists

The Music of America: Charles Ives

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The Sony Masterworks imprint has compiled various releases from the catalog of its former incarnations as CBS and Columbia into installments in a series called The Music of America. Each release contains three CDs, a brief biography of the composer (or survey of the topic), and uninformative but attractive design employing vintage photographs. Generally the releases have been well done and offer an inexpensive way of building a basic library of American music; Columbia and its successors were, once upon a time, the top U.S. classical labels, and overall quality was high. Further, the compilers here have focused on the conductor, who arguably did the most to popularize Ives and the more iconoclastic side of American music in general, Michael Tilson Thomas. He is heard not only with the San Francisco Symphony that he conducted for many years, but also the Chicago Symphony and even, in a very nice Symphony No. 2, the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. The few other conductors represented (Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy) were also sympathetic Ives interpreters, and the balance between Ives standards like Central Park in the Dark and pieces a rung down in popularity (Robert Browning Overture, or the pair of songs sung by baritone Thomas Hampson with Tilson Thomas at the piano) is right. A reasonable budget choice.

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